Last Friday, NWLC filed an “amicus,” or “friend of the court brief” before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, with our partners the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, SisterLove, Inc., and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and our counsel, Lowenstein Sandler LLP. The brief was signed by 40 other reproductive rights, health and justice, social justice, civil rights, and advocacy organizations. The brief urges the appeals court to keep in place a nationwide court order temporarily blocking two Trump-Pence administration rules issued in October 2017 that would allow virtually any employer or university to take away insurance coverage of birth control from employees, students, and their dependents for just about any reason. The brief explains the devastating impact the rules would have on people of color, young people, trans folks, and others who already face multiple and intersecting barriers to health care and economic advancement. The brief also attacks the faulty assumptions and misleading data the Administration has put forward as justification for the rules, citing research showing that the Administration’s claims are false and put peoples’ health and livelihoods at risk.
The Trump-Pence rules would gut the ACA birth control benefit, which requires insurers to cover the full range of FDA-approved birth control methods for women and related counseling, education, and services with no out-of-pocket costs. Thanks to the ACA, a whopping 62.4 million women have insurance coverage of birth control with no out-of-pocket cost, and so for the first time many women can choose their birth control method based on what is best for them rather than what they can afford. We all know HHS secretary Tom Price’s uninformed line that “not one” woman has struggled to afford birth control is just not true, and in the brief we give the hard data: Research shows that even small costs can lead women to use birth control inconsistently or incorrectly, to use less effective methods, or to forgo birth control altogether. Women have saved billions of dollars from the ACA birth control benefit, corresponding with an increase in use of birth control—particularly highly effective methods like IUDs.
The Trump-Pence rules would reverse these benefits, particularly for workers and students who struggle to make ends meet and have the fewest resources to pay out-of-pocket for birth control or absorb the costs and burdens of an unintended pregnancy. The Trump-Pence rules will also force many to navigate a complex health care system to obtain birth control without insurance, which is daunting for anyone, but especially for people of color, people whose first language is not English, trans people, and others who already face multiple barriers to obtaining reproductive health care, including language barriers, cultural incompetence, and discrimination. Moreover, in many parts of the country with limited access to publicly-funded clinics offering the full range of FDA-approved birth control methods—so-called “contraceptive deserts”—women will not be able to get the birth control they need. Simply put, for many women, losing insurance coverage of birth control means losing access to it.
By creating barriers to birth control, the Trump-Pence rules will undermine the health, autonomy, equality, and economic security of women and others who can get pregnant. Birth control is essential preventive health care—it prevents unintended pregnancy and its related health risks, controls medical conditions that would be aggravated by pregnancy, and offers standalone health benefits unrelated to pregnancy. By allowing people to plan, delay, space, and limit pregnancies in the way that is best for them, birth control empowers individuals to exercise control over their reproductive futures, to further their educational and career goals, and to participate equally in society. These benefits are particularly crucial for people who already face unduly negative health outcomes, people who already struggle to access education and good jobs, and communities with histories of subjection to the control of others in their sexual and reproductive lives.
The Trump-Pence administration is attempting to use every arrow in its quiver to interfere with our birth control and control our bodies. NWLC and its amici partners have exposed exactly what is at stake in this litigation: the health, freedom, equality, and livelihoods of people who can become pregnant, especially those who already live at the intersection of multiple forms of discrimination and barriers to care. The court of appeals should defer to the lower court’s decision that these rules are dangerous, were issued illegally, and must be blocked from taking effect.
Download the full amicus brief here.